Old Fashioned Insurance


Just a few generations ago, very few people lived in apartments. Many folks lived and died in the same home in fact. Small, often remote communities often came together to help their neighbors with barn raisings, crop harvestings, or disasters. Folks didn’t have insurance on barns, crops and homes like many of us do now. (although I’m not altogether convinced that insurance is such a wise buy since it’s basically the policy holder BETTING they’ll need it, and the insurance company BETTING they won’t! ) 

Cloudland is just such a community. You can see from the flier above that they came together with just such an old fashioned “insurance policy” last Saturday to help 3 or 4 of their neighbors that have been displaced since their apartment building burned, shortly before Christmas. The normally pay-in-advance facility rental fee was waived for the event, the 9 local bands that played through the 6 hour event all donated their time and talents, the sound system and engineer for that system was donated and the community donated their money and potluck dishes to make this event a smashing success. Over $2,144 was raised! I think that says a lot about Cloudland, and the folks that helped make it so successful. But it also gives me renewed hope in a world that seems hell-bent on individuality, each man for himself mentalities, and embarrassingly evil ways to ‘shut out’ those that need help the most. 


The Triple J Barn transformed for the evening


Friends, food and music. A great time was had by all, devastated families will be helped by the money raised, and the spirit of community was strengthened. This embodies exactly what this blog is about and I simply wanted to share the warm feeling I’m still enjoying after attending this ‘Care Fest’ last Saturday. One more thing. I’m truly proud of Michael and several other friends for being one of those that donated his talents by playing with OUR band (I still can’t make this stiff hand work well enough to play bass!) and of my best friend Rhodyjane for spearheading it and making it all come together.

Tennessee may not be perfect (is there any place that is?) but together, we are making the transitions we need to in order to make sure that everyone not only survives, but thrives, during this new year. Make sure  you take good care of you and yours too!

What’s-This-Blog-About, Alphie?
June 15, 2015, 2:04 PM
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Transition Towns, Transitioning

Hello again readers! I’ve taken the liberty of using a play on words from an old movie and song for today’s title, and also copying the entire page below from the Transition Towns website. No matter how I try to word it, they say it best and there’s no point in recreating the wheel when there’s already so much work to be done. So, here’s the how’s and why’s of the Transition movement. May you be so moved too…


We are living in an age of unprecedented change, with a number of crises converging. Climate change, global economic instability, overpopulation, erosion of community, declining biodiversity, and resource wars, have all stemmed from the availability of cheap, non-renewable fossil fuels. Global oil, gas and coal production is predicted to irreversibly decline in the next 10 to 20 years, and severe climate changes are already taking effect around the world. The coming shocks are likely to be catastrophic if we do not prepare. As Richard Heinberg states:

 “Our central survival task for the decades ahead, as individuals and as a species, must be to make a transition away from the use of fossil fuels –and to do this as peacefully, equitably, and intelligently as possible”.

The Transition movement represents one of the most promising ways of engaging people and communities to take the far-reaching actions that are required to mitigate the effects of peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis. Furthermore, these relocalization efforts are designed to result in a life that is more fulfilling, more socially connected and more equitable than the one we have today.

The Transition model is based on a loose set of real world principles and practices that have been built up over time through experimentation and observation of communities as they drive forward to reduce carbon emissions and build community resilience. Underpinning the model is a recognition of the following:

  • Peak Oil, Climate Change and the Economic Crisis require urgent action
  • Adaptation to a world with less oil is inevitable
  • It is better to plan and be prepared, than be taken by surprise
  • Industrial society has lost the resilience to be able to cope with shocks to its systems
  • We have to act together and we have to act now
  • We must negotiate our way down from the “peak” using all our skill, ingenuity and intelligence
  • Using our creativity and cooperation to unleash the collective genius within our local communities will lead to a more abundant, connected and healthier future for all.

The Transition Movement believes that is up to us in our local communities to step into a leadership position on this situation. We need to start working now to mitigate the interrelated effects of peak oil, climate change, and the economic crisis, before it is too late. Together we can make a difference.


Check out this video put together by Ben Zolno on ‘Why Transition?’:

“We Are Not Lost!”

Michael and I took a long walk with the dog this afternoon around town. I snapped pictures of things that I found interesting, and thought my local readers might enjoy taking this tour with me. I’m so pleased with the progress we’re seeing and look forward to the time when the postcard scenes that are in my mind become a reality. In the meantime, I’m find I’m fascinated with the journey. By the way, this pictoral shows some of the activity of progress, but it also shows some of the ‘humanity’ that’s often harder to see. (note: double clicking on the pictures will enlarge them)

First stop, about a block away, is just a nice scene that I get to enjoy year round. In the distance, down the hill, are the Carver Peace Gardens…


As I enter this community gardens, I’m thrilled to see that the city has done exactly what I asked them to do! They’ve moved the little unused and inaccessible greenhouse to a much better spot within the garden area and will have water and electric run to it within a few weeks. The addition of this greenhouse means that we’ll be able to not only start herbs, flowers and veggies for the resident gardeners within its’ cozy interior, but hopefully we’ll be able to grow enough to share with other community gardens in town!


After marveling over this gift, we travel on down the street, through a neighborhood that we don’t often walk through. Lo and behold! there’s an empty, sunny, corner lot in the middle of the ‘hood with a new sign planted there…

20150207_143109[1]I love the idea of community gardens and feel it is truly one of the best ways there is to have healthy food on our tables and strong communities! A few more blocks down and we find ourselves on the VA campus, at the intersection of Peace and Freedom. What a wonderful place to be on a beautiful and warm winter’s day…


Circling to the back of the beautiful campus, and into the crown jewel of our fair city, we find ourselves face to face with the new public art sculptures that were installed just this week. I didn’t take this picture because I was there in bright sunlight, but I wanted you to see how beautiful it looks at night.


Leaving the other end of the park, we see the site preparation work that was begun this week for the new Farmer’s Market. This one will have vendor stalls with a roof for rainy days, lighting, bathrooms and more!


As we make the loop through downtown to head back home, we happen to walk past some trees that are wrapped in winter scarves!


Upon closer inspection we read the attached tags…


 “I am not lost! If  you’re stuck out in the cold please take this to keep warm”

As much as I love our community gardens, public art, Farmer’s Markets, greenways, bikeways and beautiful mountain scenery, THIS stole my heart. The note is right! We are NOT lost; we’re finding our way, inch by inch, and scarf by scarf in a world that I sometimes feel is cold and scary. We’re making the transitions that are necessary to keep us connected and vibrant, but It really does take a village. My village is awesome!

Transitions R Us
December 29, 2013, 9:20 PM
Filed under: Christmas, Economic Collapse, Transition Towns | Tags: ,

 I got an Earth Fare gift card and a tiny blue tooth ear receiver for Christmas. I got a cold and  a box of tangelos too. But I am very happy. The cold is almost gone, the tangelos will soon be too. I’ll use the gift card to take advantage of those Earth Fare weekly freebies that require you to make a $5 to $10 purchase, extending its’ value even further, and I’m looking at the ear piece as an investment in my health since I’ve heard that holding a cell phone to my ear could be unhealthy for my brain. My Ohio family members came for a visit, and my “locally grown” family members joined us for fun, food and games around the table. I’m really happy that our celebration was such a simple affair. No one had to worry about ‘outdoing’ one another gift-wise, or had to be concerned about how they might afford more expensive gifts and none of us have to find a place in our homes or closets for yet another doodad or article of clothing. We’ve left Gifts R Us behind.


Looking back, the transition we’ve gone through to get to this happy place has been a perfect example of what this blog is about. Transitions take time, and in my family’s case, more than a decade. How long might we expect it to take a society, one based on infinite growth, using finite resources, to transition to one that’s built on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being? If our economy and society collapse, I’d say we’ll do it (one way or another!) in less than a decade, but it would be a time of great duress for everyone. Just ask Cuba. I propose that we not wait for a societal collapse but instead begin the hard work NOW of transitioning to that new way of living and being that we want to be a part of. A gradual and graceful transition to that new lifestyle is still my Christmas wish and my New Year’s resolution. I hope you and your family will join me and my family for Transitions R US. To inspire you, here’s a link to a full length film about the Transition movement. It’s an amazing story about how Transition groups around the world are responding to the challenges of depleting and costly energy resources, financial instability and environmental change.


From mitigation to adaptation


Increasingly, governments and disaster planners are recognizing the importance of social infrastructure: the people, places, and institutions that foster cohesion and support. “There’s a lot of social-science research showing how much better people do in disasters, how much longer they live, when they have good social networks and connections,” says Nicole Lurie, a former professor of health policy who has been President O’Bama’s assistant secretary for preparedness and response since 2009. This writer definitely considers my locally based connections-from my church to my band- to all be invaluable parts of my social network, but because of our unique geographical constraints in this Appalachian region, almost everyone involved in my various networks is separated from one another by miles and miles of highway. The very people who I might need to depend on in a disaster or an emergency, or simply in a localized economy, don’t really exist for me.

To that end, I’ve been seriously considering trying to form a social/community infrastructure like the ‘Transition Initiatives’ I’ve been reading about and studying for the last couple of years. The core purpose of the Transition Initiative is to address, at the community level, the twin challenges of Climate Change and Peak Oil, and this blog was so named because of my desire to meet those challenges. But, even as the Transition movement continues to spread around the world, my personal efforts seem to be trivial and I am unable to influence anything at a local, much less a national level. I find myself paralyzed between the apparent futility of the small-scale and impotent in the large-scale. However, The Transition Initiative works right in the middle, at the scale of the community, where actions are significant, visible, and effective.


Yesterday, the President delivered a major speech on climate change and I was happy to hear his climate action plans. I really want to believe that we still have time to slow down the heating and CO2 emissions, so that we won’t have to adapt to a hotter, crazier climate. When I first began to pay attention to what was then called the inconvenient truth about “Global Warming”, I had high hopes that the world would understand the problems and find ways to reduce the warming. Now, ten years later, what we’re experiencing has been changed to the more encompassing term of “Climate Change”, the deniers have pretty much been drowned out and proven to be wrong, but my hopes for solutions have fallen. I’m noticing more and more books, websites and articles are dealing with how societies can adapt to climate change vs how we might mitigate or forestall it indefinitely.

Consequently, now that we’ve officially moved more to an adaptation mode, I think forming a local Transition Initiative should be my next step. Will you take a look at the Transition Network’s website here:  http://www.transitionus.org/, subscribe to their digital newsletter, and seriously give consideration to attending an informational meeting about such an endeavor this fall? I’ve been reluctant to even suggest starting such a group for fear that it might end up falling on my shoulders completely, but the more I read about these initiatives in the US (currently 139 towns in 35 states, including our nearest neighbors in Asheville, NC)  and around the world (463 in 43 countries) the more I’m convinced that it  would allow us to  face the future in a way that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient. Please feel free to send your comments to me privately or even better, post them publicly below to start this conversation now. If there’s enough interest, we’ll set a date, time and place to begin mulling over the possibilities together. What will it be-mitigation or adaptation?

the transition

Weather weirdness

I’ve been pretty busy with spring chores lately: building raised beds for our community garden plot…


cutting grass and making hot compost with the clippings, playing music, hosting company, working out and watching it rain a lot. But it’s mid-May folks, and I’m still making soups! I normally don’t make soups in warm weather, I like to reserve it for those cool days of fall and winter but last Thursday I had a guest for lunch and even though we were able to enjoy eating out on the patio for the first time this season, and it was sunny enough to cook it in my solar cooker…


the fact remains, I was making soup on May 2nd! Then, last weekend we had a house full of company from Nashville, so we decided to go to Asheville for the day. It was so windy and cool there that folks had coats and hats on all day.  ‘course, we had fun in spite of the wind…


By the time the company left on Sunday, it was so cool and rainy I decided to make soup again, which we enjoyed again on Monday-May 6th and I gave the last bowl to my brother on May 7th, another cool day. It has gradually warmed this week, and I’ve been busy weeding and planting, but lo and behold, Sunday and Monday night low’s are forecast to be in the 30’s!!! If that ain’t soup weather I don’t know what is! My fall-planted pansies are still blooming their hearts out, and the lettuce hasn’t gone to seed yet. So I keep cutting it, thinking that any day I’ll see it elongate and begin going to seed, but so far, it’s holding well. And because it was a fall planted variety, it’s especially well suited for cool weather. Last year, I harvested a huge batch of honey in May, which was the earliest my bees had ever filled their supers, and that was simply because spring had arrived so early in 2012. This year, there’s not much honey flow at all because it’s been so wet and rainy. This week saw a RECORD BREAKING heat in Michael’s hometown in California, with 18″ of snow last week in Minnesota. “Record ‘latest ice out dates’ have been and will be set this year for many Minnesota lakes; a problem for some anglers this weekend as they gear up for the Minnesota fishing opener. Some may actually take their ice augers with them across the far north rather than lugging the boat along“.  My friend from Oregon writes that her normally rainy, rainy season that used to last through May and often June too, has been replaced this year with weeks and weeks and weeks of dryness. You know, Portland, that rainy place.

This weather weirdness has made gardening difficult for me. I still haven’t planted my tomatoes or peppers, and just this week finally planted summer and winter squash, green beans, edamame and limas. Last year I picked my first beans in early June! If all this rain keeps up, I’m afraid my potatoes will rot before they produce, and the seeds I planted will be washed away. The good thing about raised beds in wet weather is that they drain faster. Conversely, the bad thing about raised beds in dry weather is that they drain faster.

So, why am I rehashing the spring weather? I just want folks to recognize and accept the fact that climate change is real, it’s happening and our weather is  going to become even more unstable because unfortunately, we’ve reached the tipping point and the planet simply can’t ‘normalize’ anymore. We can’t change the weather, that’s a fact. All we can do now is to take steps to become more resilient. In order to  survive and thrive in turbulent times we need to organize ourselves at the grassroots level to carry out a series of transitions-not only in terms of food and farming, but also in transportation, housing, health and education. From the state-wide climate action meeting I attended this week, to realtors touting a home’s walkability score as a selling point, we’ve started that transition. Just this week, Sebastopol,CA became the second town in that state to mandate that solar panels be installed on every new home built. The economic law of supply and demand ensures that the new mandates will begin to bring the price of the roof top electricity makers down to an affordable level for many more of us eventually. Community supported agriculture, community gardens and farmer’s markets continue to grow each year while 54 public schools are being closed in Chicago next year because of their being underutilized. Tennessee Transitions tries to explore some of the ways that we can gracefully make our own transitions to a rapidly changing climate and economy. After all, it’s not just the weather that’s weird.

keep calm


Keeping Our Communitiy Liveable

bike racks

I attended the monthly meeting of the Liveable Communities Development Group last week and was pleased to learn about some of the things they’re looking at to improve our community. Like  adding bike lanes and walking paths as well as highly visible bike racks around town, developing new green spaces and outdoor event areas, expanding the Farmer’s Market to a year round operation, expanding public transportation options, and developing a community identity that values caring, safety, and consideration. I want to live there. OH! Happy Day, I DO 😀  The next meeting will be held on December 18th, 4:00pm at the offices of the Washington Co. Economic Development Council. They’re on the 4th floor of the King Building, 300 E. Main St., Johnson City. The public is always invited to attend.

I’ve got a number of things I want to share with you, dear readers, but they’re centered on events that are happening in our region of NE TN. For those readers in New Zealand and Australia, you may be inspired to share some of the seasonal event happening in your part of the world in the comments section below. These are all examples of the ‘liveable community’ Johnson City is fast becoming.

Thursday, December 6th,  Grammy Award winning guitarists Ed Gerhard and Bill Mize return for their annual Christmas Concert at NE State Community College.

ed and bill

Michael and I will be going for the 6th or 7th year in a row. We always look forward to it and consider it  the official start to our personal Christmas season. Here’s the info you need: 7:00 p.m. Wellmont Regional Center For The Performing Arts Free and Open To The Public Call (423) 279-7669 for more information. This is a beautiful, state of the art performance center-hope to see you there!

Then, “First Friday”!


Also on Friday night:

You are cordially invited to attend the very first Memorial Park Community Center Artist Reception, showcasing the collections of local East Tennessee State University artists: Maddison Gray, Hunter Hines, and Melanie Norris.

 The event is free to the public and will take place in the Gathering Area of the beautiful, brand new Memorial Park Community Center on Friday, December 7th from 6-8pm.

community center

 Come enjoy local artists work along with refreshments. hmmm, ART and FREE FOOD. I’m there! Then off to the King Center for a free contra dance, more art, live music and food. Oh yeah, did I mention it’s all FREE?

Saturday events include:

Memorial Park Community Center Grand Opening Saturday December 8, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Breakfast with Santa at 9 a.m., guided tours of the building, fitness demonstrations, dance demonstrations, arts and craft demonstrations, arts and craft sales, aquatics demonstrations, storytelling, pictures with Santa, entertainment, sports, Ribbon Cutting at 11 a.m., and more! 510 Bert Street!

Also: The annual downtown Christmas parade will be held Saturday evening. Here’s the  info and the parade route:



Last but not least, Sunday: A benefit concert for one of my favorite local charities:


2012 Xmas Benefit Banner

Now, what does all this liveable community stuff have to do with transitioning to a peak oil world? I’m so glad you asked! The best defense we have against the triple threats of a lower energy world, climate change and an uncertain economy is to re-create our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. I think all of these events fit that bill, don’t you?

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